Authority of the Sunnah – II

Two Kinds of Revelation

It follows from the previous write-up that the revelation the holy Prophet (Sallallahu alayhi Wassallam) received from Allâh is of two different kinds:

(i) the revelation of the Qur’ân, the Holy Book, named in the Islamic terminology as al-wahy al-matluww (the recited revelation, i.e. the revelation which can be recited in Salah). This kind of revelation is confined to the verses of the Qur’ân).

(ii) the revelation received by the holy Prophet from time to time to let him know day-to-day affairs and the details of the principles laid down in the Qur’ân with their correct interpretation and explanations. This kind of revelation is called al-wahy ghayr al-matluww (the unrecited revelation). This kind of revelation is not conveyed to the people verbally. It has been demonstrated through the sayings and acts of the holy Prophet and is termed as Hadith.

Proof of the Hadith in the Qur’an

Example 1

Although what has been said above is universally admitted by the mainstream Muslim ummah but in view of the misconceptions created by some stray elements who do not read the primary sources but rely upon the orientalists and their followers, it becomes necessary to clear that the second kind of revelation mentioned above is frequently referred to in the Qur’an itself. Some ayat of the Qur’an are reproduced below which clearly prove that the Hadith is also confirmed by the Qur’an as a kind of revelation although it is not the literal Word of Allah like the Qur’an. First Example: The Qur’an says:

And We did not appoint the Qiblah on which you were earlier, but that We might know the people who follow the Messenger as distinct from those who turn back on their heels. (2:143)

In order to understand the ayah, it is necessary to know the background in which it was revealed:

In the early days of Madinan period after the hijrah the Muslims were ordered to direct their faces in the Salah towards Baytul-Maqdas (Jerusalem) which had been appointed as Qiblah of the Muslims. Up to seventeen months or so, the Muslims had been observing the Baytul-Maqdas as their Qiblah. After that the Qur’an abrogated the earlier order and the Muslims were required to observe the Ka‘bah as their Qiblah and turn their faces towards it while praying. The following ayah was revealed to appoint the new Qiblah:

So turn your face towards al-Masjid al-Haram. (2:144)

Al-Masjid al-Haram means Ka‘bah.

This new order was criticized by some disbelievers and they objected on it as to why at all the Baytul-Maqdas was appointed as Qiblah earlier when later it was the Ka ‘bah which had to be finally appointed as the Qiblah. The above quoted ayah (2:143) was revealed to answer this objection. The answer was that the appointment of the former Qiblah was in order to test the people whether or not they follow the Messenger in their unconditional faith in him.

And We did not appoint the Qiblah on which you were earlier, but that We might know the people who follow the Messenger… (2:143)

Now what the Qur’sn in clear terms tells us is that the appointment of Baytul-Maqdas as Qiblah was done by the order of Allah Almighty Himself. But this order is nowhere in the Qur’an, and there is no verse in the whole Book which directs the turning of faces towards Baytul-Maqdas. There is no doubt that this order was given to Muslims by the holy Prophet himself yet this order was mentioned by the Qur’an in the above quoted ayah as the order of Allah: The words: “We did not appoint the Qiblah,” instead of the words,“The Holy Prophet did not…” are too clear on this point to need more explanation.

This evidently proves that
(a)        The holy Prophet used to receive some revelations which are not contained in the Qur’an.

(c)        The orders based on such revelation were as binding on the believers as the orders of the first kind of revelations, i.e. the verse of the Holy Qur’ân.

(d) These orders were sometimes given so as to test whether or not the Muslims follow the Messenger (Sallallaho alayhi Wassallam) irrespective of the question that his orders are contained in the Qur’an or not.

Example 2

In the beginning, one of the rules followed by the Muslims was that if after iftar (the time when the fast is broken in the evening) in Ramadhan any Muslim had a short nap and wake up again it would nullify the permissibility of having sexual intercourse with his wife during the rest of the night despite that the restrictions of the fast were over. This rule was prescribed by the holy Prophet himself and was not contained in the Qur’an. But once some Muslims broke the rule by sleeping with their wives after having a post-iftar sleep. Referring to these events, the Qur’an first admonishes those people who did not follow the rule. Then, by abrogating the same, allows the Muslims in future to sleep with their wives even when they had a sleep after iftar. In this context see how the Holy Qur’an mentions this issue:

It is made lawful for you, in the nights of fasts, to have sex with your women. They are a cover for you, and you are a cover for them. Allâh knew that you were betraying yourselves; so, He relented towards you and pardoned you. So, now you can have sexual intimacy with them, and seek what Allâh has destined for you, and eat and drink until the white thread of the dawn becomes distinct from the black thread; then complete the fasts up to the night. (2:187)

A keen reader of the Qur’an knows well that there is no ayah in the Qur’an to convey this prohibition. It was enforced only by the holy Prophet. Still, the Holy Qur’an not only confirms it, but also treats it as if it were in its own words. It is due to the fact that the holy Prophet did not enforce this prohibition by his own will, it was rather based on a hidden revelation not contained in the Holy Qur’ân.

What do you think after reading the above ayah? Doesn’t it clearly confirm the fact that the earlier prohibition of having sexual intercourse during the nights of Ramadhan was validly made by the holy Prophet in the capacity of a competent authority in the Shari‘ah, and the Muslims were bound to abide by it.

Looked at from this angle, this verse on the one hand proves that there is a revelation which does not form part of the Holy Qur’ân, and on the other hand it reaffirms the status of the holy Prophet as a law-giver, and that his injunctions, both orders and prohibitions, are binding on the Muslims.

Example 3

On the occasion of the battle of Uhud, some Qur’anic ayat were revealed to make the Muslims recall the events of the battle of Badr as to how Allah helped them and how He promised to send the angels to their aid, and how He actually did so. These verses are as under:

Allah has certainly helped you at Badr while you were weak. So, fear Allah so that you may be grateful. When you (O Prophet) were saying to the believers, ‘Shall it not suffice you that your Lord shall aid you with three thousand angels being sent down? Why not? If you observe patience and fear Allah and they come to you in this their heat, your Lord shall aid you with five thousand angels having distinct marks?’ And Allah did not make it but a good news for you so that your hearts might be satisfied. And there is no help except from Allah, the All-Mighty, the All-Wise. (3:123-126)

But here again the fact is that there is no ayat in the Qur’an revealed during the battle of Badr which implies the good news of the aid of the angels. What is quoted above is only a reference of that news, made at the time of Badr, and it is expressly mentioned in this ayat that the good news was given by the holy Prophet. Still, the news is attributed to Allah.

Thus, it is another example where the words of the holy Prophet are held to be the words of Allah. There is no reason for this expression other than that the words of the Prophet were inspired by a special revelation, not contained in the Qur’an, and this is what is called the “unrecited revelation.”

Dr Nazir Ahmad Zargar teachers at the Religious Studies department, Central University, Kashmir